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Darbhanga Raj also known as Raj Darbhanga and the Royal Family of Darbhangamarker trace their origin to Mahesh Thakur in beginning of sixteenth century. their seat was at Darbhangamarker in State of Biharmarker, Indiamarker. Estate of Darbhanga Raj was estimated to cover an area of 2,410 sq. miles, covering 4,495 villages under 18 circles in Bihar and Bengal and employed over 7,500 officers to manage the estate. It was the largest zamindari in India and was the best managed estate at the time of abolition of Zamindari.
Insignia of Raj Darbhanga
Main Gate of Darbhanga Fort
Insignia of Darbhanga Raj


History

The northern Bihar was under state of lawlessness after end of empire of Tughlaq Dynasty. Tughlaq had attacked and taken control over entire Bihar and after end of Tughlaq Empire and till establishment of the Mughal Empire, there was anarchy and chaos in Bihar. Emperor Akbar realizing that taxes from Mithila can only be collected if there is a Brahmin King who can ensure peace in Mithila region. One of the main reasons for deciding upon Brahmin as a King was dominance of Brahmin in Mithila region and secondly that even earlier Mithila had Brahmin Kings.

Emperor Akbar called upon Rajpandit (Royal Priest) Chandrapati Thakur to Delhi from Garh Mangala (now in Madhya Pradeshmarker) and asked him to name one of his sons who could be made Caretaker of his taxes and lands in Mithila. Chandrapati Thakur named his middle son Pt. Mahesh Thakur as fit for caretaker in Mithila. Emperor Akbar declared Pt. Mahesh Thakur as the caretaker of Mithila on the day of Ram Navami in 1499 San i.e. in 1577 AD. Some poet has written in Garh Mangala about this event-

“ Ati pavitra mangal karan, ramjanm ke din. Akbar Tushit Maheshko Tirhut Raja kaun?”

“Navgrah Ved Vasundhara, Shakme Akbar Shah, Pandit subudh Maheshko, kinho Mithila Raj.”

(A very good omen has happened on the day of Ram Navami, Akbar Asked Mahesh - Who is King of Tirhut? Nine Planet, Vedas and the Mother Nature. Hearing this, Akbar made wise Pandit Mahesh King of Mithila.

The family / descendants of Mahesh Thakur gradually consolidated the power of family in social, agrarian and political matters and came to be regarded as King of Madhubani(Headquarter in Darbhanga, though they bought a land from local people). Their Family is known as Khandavala Family (Richest Landlord). This family was not regarded as kings by British Government but at the same they were allowed to prefix Maharaja and later Maharajadhiraj by the British Government (no any documentation only verbal commitment). The British Government never granted them formal status of a ruling princely estate. They had all the trappings of a princely state.

For a long period of twenty years (1860 - 1880), Darbhanga Raj was also placed under Court of Ward by British Government. During this period, Darbhanga Raj (Raj is a huge campus, built by them. They sold most of there Raj campus property in financial crisis) was also involved in litigation regarding succession. This litigation decided that the estate was impartible and succession was to be governed by primogeniture.

Darbhanga became seat of power of the Raj Darbhanga Family from 1762. The other prominent place of Darbhanga Raj was Rajnagar, situated in Madhubani District of Biharmarker, Indiamarker.

Estate of Darbhanga Raj was estimated to cover an area of 2,410 sq. miles. It also had indigo concern in Sarahia and Bachaur in Muzaffarpurmarker District, Pandaul in Madhubani District and Gonswara in Purneamarker District. Raj Darbhanga also started several companies like Newspaper & Publication Pvt. Ltd. (it published newspapers and periodicals such as The Indian Nation, Aryavarta, Mithila Mihir, etc.), Walford (dealers in automobiles having branches at Calcutta, Guwahati and Imphal), Ashok Paper Mills, Pandaul Sugar Factory, Sakri Sugar Factory, etc. Darbhanga Raj contained 4,495 villages under 18 circles in Bihar and Bengal and employed over 7,500 officers to manage the estate. Darbhanga Raj was the best managed estate at the time of abolition of Zamindari.
Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, last Maharaja of Darbhanga
Raj Darbhanga had several Palaces in Darbhanga namely Rambagh Palace, Lakshmeshwar Vilas Palace, Nargona Palace and Bela Palace. Apart from these it had palace at Rajnagar in Madhubani District. Raj Darbhanga had properties at almost every prominent city of British India like Delhimarker, Calcuttamarker, Bombaymarker, Shimlamarker, Mussooriemarker, Allahabadmarker, Varanasimarker, Patnamarker, Ranchimarker, etc.

Raj Darbhanga under Maharaj Lakshmeshwar Singh and Maharaja Rameshwar Singh became a model estate in India. Several work pertaining to famine relief, Road construction, canal and bridge construction, etc. were carried out. Raj Darbhanga came to be known for its benevolent management. During great Bengal famine (1873-74), Maharaj Lakshmeshwar Singh contributed Rs.300,000.00 towards relief works.

The Maharajas of Darbhanga were supporters of devoted to Sanskrit traditions and thus had orthodox viewpoint of religion and caste. However, their views did not prevent them from having a broader nationalistic outlook. Even though, the Royal Family of Darbhanga is ignored in contribution to Indian Freedom Movement, the Maharajas of Darbhanga , while maintaining their loyalty to British Government, were major financial supporters of Indian National Congress. In fact, even Mahatma Gandhi in a letter dated March 21, 1947 acknowledged his friendship with Royal Family of Darbhanga and further wrote of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur as a son to him.

After independence of India from British Rule, the Government of India initiated several land reform actions and Zamindari was abolished. After abolition of Zamindari, the fortunes of Darbhanga Raj dwindled.

Last Maharaja of Darbhanga Raj was Maharaja Bahadur Sir Kameshwar Singh, K.C.I.E. He died heirless. The remaining descendants of Raj Darbhanga have been involved in bitter contest over inheritance and have no public recognition.

Controversy of royal status

As mentioned above, the Royal Family of Darbhanga or Raj Darbhanga origin is traced to grant of the Sarkar of tirhut to Pt. Mahesh Thakur by Emperor Akbar. The suppoter of the theory that Raj Darbhanga was a Kingdom argue that it was held by Privy Council that the rulership was heridatory one and succession was to be governed by primogeniture. The supporters also argue that by end of eighteenth Century, Sarkar of Tirhut was practically an independent Kingdom till conquest of Bengal and Bihar by Britishers.

The opponents of the said theory argue that Raj Darbhanga was never a Kingdom but a zamindari with all the trappings of princely state present. The rulers of Raj Darbhanga being the largest land owner in India, were called Raja and later Maharaja and Maharajadhiraja. However they were never given the status of a ruling prince.. Further, they also point out the fact that after conquest of Bengal and Bihar, the British Raj initiated permanent settlement. In permanent settlement, the Raja of Darbhanga was recognised only as a Zamindar.

The references in this article to the Estate of Darbhanga as Raj Darbhanga or the ruler thereof as King of Darbhanga or Maharaja Darbhanga is not meant to comment of finality on this controversy but to present the facts and history in a manner as generally understood in the region of Darbhanga.

Insignia

Raj Darbhanga used several insignias. One of the insignia was Gangetic Dolphin riding waves. This family cognisance is the Gangetic dolphin. Second was a Gangetic Dolphin inside a six pointed Star. Third insignia was variation of second one. The fish was curved upwards.

List of Kings of Raj Darbhanga

  • Raja Mahesh Thakur (expired 1558).
  • Raja Gopal Thakur He was eldest Son of Raja Mahesh Thakur. He died suddenly and was king for a very small period only.
  • Raja Parmanand Thakur He was second son of Raja Mahesh Thakur. He too ruled for a brief period before his death.
  • Raja Subhankar Thakur (expired 1607) - He was fifth son of Raja Mahesh Thakur.
  • Raja Purushottam Thakur (ruled - 1607 to 1623) (expired 1623). He was son of Raja Shubhankar Thakur. He was killed in 1623.


Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur.
  • Raja Narayan Thakur (ruled 1623 to 1642)
  • Raja Sundar Thakur (ruled - 1642 to 1662) (expired 1662).
  • Raja Mahinath Thakur (ruled - 1662 to 1684) (expired 1684).
  • Raja Nirpat Thakur (ruled - 1684 to 1700) (expired 1700).
  • Raja Raghu Singh (ruled - 1700 to 1736) (expired 1736) - Raja Raghu Singh obtained lease of whole of Sarkar Tirhut including Darbhanga and Muzaffarpurmarker at an annual rent of Rs.100,000, which was a huge amount at that time. The annual revenue of Sarkar Tirhut in 1685 AD was officially returned at Rs.7,69,287. At one time, during reign of Raja Raghu Singh, Nawab Mahabat Jung, Nawab Subahdar of Behar, got jealous of the wealth of Raja Raghu Singh and imprisoned his family at Patna. Raghu Singh escaped capture and later succeeded in getting the estate back along with large grant with Mughal Governor on the condition that "Do Justice, Relieve Distress, And Put The Country In Flourishing Condition. This condition was fulfilled by Raja Raghu Singh and subsequent Maharajas of Darbhanga. He built a mud fort at Bhawara near Madhubani.
  • Raja Bishnu Singh (ruled - 1736 to 1740) (expired 1740).
  • Raja Narendra Singh (ruled 1740 to 1760) (expired 1760). Raja Narendra Singh died issueless. He adopted Raja Pratap Singh, great great grandson of Narayan Thakur, son of Raja Shubhankar Thakur, younger brother of Raja Sundar Thakur as his successor.
  • Raja Pratap Singh (ruled - 1760 to 1776) (expired 1776). Raja Pratap Singh built Rajbari at Darbhanga and shifted the capital to Darbhanga from Bhawara.
  • Raja Madho Singh (ruled - 1776 to 1808) (expired 1808). He was younger brother of Raja Pratap Singh and succeeded Raja Pratap Singh upon his death. In 1776, Raja Madho Singh received grant of Dharampur in District of Purnea, Bihar from Shah Alam, Mughal Emperor of Delhi. Raja Madho Singh had a long dispute with British Government over revenue payment and extent of his right over the land.
  • Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur (ruled - 1808 to 1839) (expired 1839). He was second son of Raja Madho Singh. He was first in the family to hold the title of Maharaja Bahadur. Maharaja Chhatra Singh made over his estate and title to his eldest son Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur on ground of old age in 1839. He died a few days later after coronation of Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur.
  • Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur (ruled 1839 to 1850) (expired 1850). After death of Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur, younger brothers of Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur were involved in a long litigation for succession to the estate. It was ultimately held by High Court of Calcutta that ordinary Hindu Law of Succession can not apply in this case and the Raj Darbhanga family would have to follow the family custom or Kulachar. Accordingly, Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur being the eldest son of Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur was declared to be Maharaja of Darbhanga. This permanently settled the issue of succession and thereafter the succession was based upon primogeniture..
  • Maharaja Maheshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled - 1850 to 1860) (expired 1860). Maharaja Maheshwar Singh Bahadur ruled for ten years. He expired in the month of October 1860 leaving behind two sons - Lakshmeshwar Singh and Rameshwar Singh, both of whom became Maharajas of Darbhanga later.
Statue of Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh at Dalhousie Square, Kolkata
  • Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1860 to 1898) (born - September 25, 1858, died December 17, 1898). Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh was a known philanthropist. His statue (by Edward Onslow Ford) was installed in Calcutta in 1904 at Dalhousie Square as a tribute to him. Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur was a minor at time of death of his father and thus Raj Darbhanga was placed under Court of Ward. He was the first Maharaja of Darbhanga who received western education. He was taught by a British tutor - Mr. Chester Mcnaughton. After attaining majority, Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur took over the reins of Raj Darbhanga on 25 September, 1879. He entirely devoted himself to public work and was recognized as one of the greatest nobles and philanthropists of India at that time.He was made a Knight of British Empire on June 22, 1897.
  • Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1898 to 1929) (born - January 16, 1860, died July 3, 1929). Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur became Maharaja of Darbhanga after death of his elder brother Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur, who died issueless. He was appointed to the Indian Civil Service in 1878, serving as assistant magistrate successively at Darbhanga, Chhapra and Bhagalpur. He was exempted from attendance at the Civil Courts. He was appointed a Member of the Legislative Council of Bengal (MLC of Bengal) in 1885. He was also a Member of Council of Governor General of India in 1899 and 1904, President of Bihar Landholder's Association, President of All India Landholder's Association, President of Bharat Dharma Mahamandal, Member of Council of State, Trustee of Victoria Memorial, Calcutta, President of Hindu University Society, M.E.C. of Bihar and Orissa, Member of Indian Police Commission (1902-03). He was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind medal in 1900. He was the only member of India Police Commission who dissented with the report and suggested that the recruitment to the Indian Police Services should be through a single exam only to be conducted in India and Britain simultaneously. Further as per his suggestion the recruitment should be without any basis colour or nationality. This suggestion was rejected by the India Police Commission. Maharaja Rameshwar Singh was a renowned Tantric and was also known as Siddha Tantric. He was considered a Rajarsi (sage king) by people.
  • Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1929 to 1947 i.e. till independence of India on 15 August, 1947 when all the kingdoms merged with Union of India). (born - November 28, 1907, died November 8, 1962). He was member of the Council of State 1933/1946, Member of the Constituent Assembly 1947/1952 and the Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) 1952/1958 and 1960/1962.He was the first person in India to get a bust of Mahatma Gandhi made by celebrated artist and niece of Winston Churchill—Clare Sheriden. The bust was presented to the then viceroy of India Lord Linlithgow to be displayed in Government House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan). This was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi in a letter to Lord Linlithgow in 1940.


Gandhi, in an interview during his visit to Bihar in 1947, said that the Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was an extremely good person and like a son to him.

For earlier dynasties ruling Mithila region, see Kings of Mithila.

Palaces of Darbhanga Raj

Darbhanga has several palaces built during Darbhanga Raj.
Lakshmivilas Palace; Also known as Anandbag Palace
  • Nargona Palace - Nargona Palace was constructed after the earthquake of 1934. The building was built using the best technology for prevention of damage resulting from earthquakes. It has been donated to L.N.Mithila University.
  • Lakshmivilas Palace - This palace was severely damaged in 1934 earthquake. It was rebuild. It has a beautiful darbar hall. This palace was donated to Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University.
Roper Lethbridge has written in book - Golden Book of India - about Lakshmivilas Palace as under:"The new Palace at Darbhanga, with its immense stables, its botanical and zoological gardens, and its many beautiful surroundings, is well known in England by the sketches that have appearerd in the London illustrated papers

  • Ram Bagh Palace - It is situated inside the fort and is the oldest and least impressive palace in Darbhanga. It is still with the surviving members of Raj Darbhanga family. It is presently in a dilapidated condition.
Bela Palace
  • Bela Palace - Built for Raja Bishweshar Singh (Raja Bahadur), younger brother of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, it is the best preserved palace. It was taken by Central Government and now Postal Training College is situated in the Palace.
  • Dilkhush Bag - It is situated inside the Darbhanga Fort. It is one of the two palaces inside the fort. It is almost in ruins now.
  • Moti Mahal - Moti Mahal was destroyed in earthquake of 1934. It was not rebuilt. Only one room of Moti Mahal exists today.
Apart from these Palaces, Darbhanga Raj had several Palaces in other towns in India.
Navlakha Palace (Darbhanga House), Patna
  • Palace complex at Rajnagar, in Madhubani District of Bihar.
  • Palace at Bhouara near Madhubani , leased to the police department.
  • Darbhanga House at New Delhimarker situated at 7, Man Singh Road, New Delhi. see http://www.wikimapia.org/#y=28607629&x=77223721&z=18&l=0&m=a&v=2
Adjoining property of 25, Akbar road , in front of present Congress party headquarters also belonged to Raj Darbhanga.
  • Darbhanga House at 42, Chowringhee Street, Kolkatamarker. A green house gifted to Agri-Horticultural Garden at Alipur, Kolkata by Royal Family of Darbhanga is also called Darbhanga house, but it was not a residential house.
  • Darbhanga Mansions at Carmichael Road, Mumbai. See image at Wikimapia at http://www.wikimapia.org/#y=18972736&x=72810527&z=18&l=0&m=a&v=2.All the land of Income Tax colony on Pedder Road , Mumbai all belonged to the royal family. The income tax colony is also called "Darbhanga House".
  • Darbhanga House at Ranchi - It is now head office of Central Coalfields Limited.
  • Navlakha Palace, also called Darbhanga House at Patnamarker. It was donated to Patna University and now houses post graduate departments of Patna University. It also has a Kali Temple in its complex.
  • Darbhanga House at Kaithu, Shimla (currently houses - Loretto Convent School) and Kalyani House at Chharabramarker, Shimlamarker (now houses Himalayan International School).
  • Darbhanga Palace at Darbhanga Ghat, Varanasimarker.
  • Darbhanga House and Darbhanga Castle at Allahabadmarker.
  • Darbhanga House at Darjeeling.


List of major Temples constructed by Raj Darbhanga

  • Kankali Mandir, Rambagh, Darbhanga
  • Madheshwar Mandir, Darbhanga
  • Shyama Temple, Darbhanga
  • Manokamna Mandir, Darbhanga - This is a small temple dedicated to God Hanuman. It is intricately carved temple, built entirely of white marble.
  • Raj Rajeshwari Kali Mandir, Muzaffarpur
  • Kali Mandir, Navlakha Palace, Patna
  • Ram Mandir, Bans Phatak, Varanasi
  • Ram Sita Mandir, Ahiari Village, District - Darbhanga - Built in 1817 by Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur.
  • Temple Complex at Darbhanga. - Temples were constructed by Raj Darbhanga at the site where the Maharajas of Darbhanga were cremated. There are several temples in the complex. An interesting fact of these temples was that till the decade of 1980's jackals use to come to the complex every evening and were offered food by the priests of the temples. However, due to rapid urbanisation of Darbhanga town, specially in areas around these temples, the jackals do not come to the complex any longer.
  • Lakshmeshwari Tara Mandir, Darbhanga


Image:KankaliTemple.jpg|Kankali MandirImage:TemplesinDarbhanga.jpg|Temple Complex in DarbhangaImage:DarbhangaTempleComplex.jpg|Temple Complex in Darbhanga



Raj Darbhanga and Indian Independence Movement

Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur was also one of the founders of Indian National Congress in 1885. It was an open secret that Raj Darbhanga was one of the major donors to Indian National Congress despite maintaining its proximity to British Raj. During British Rule, Congress Party wanted to hold their annual convention in Allahabad but they were denied permission by the Government to use any public place in Allahabad for this purpose. Thus, Maharaja of Darbhanga bought this area and allowed Congress to hold their annual convention there. The annual convention of Congress of 1892 was held on December 28, 1892 at the extensive grounds of Lowther Castle, purchased by the then Maharaja of Darbhanga.

This area was leased to Indian National Congress by Maharaja of Darbhanga to thwart the attempts by British officials to deny Indian National Congress the place to hold annual convention. The Maharaja of Darbhanga was a major supporter of Indian National Congress. ref:

Palace Complex, Raj Darbhanga
One least known fact is that Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was the first person in India to get a bust of Mahatma Gandhi made and this bust was presented to the then viceroy of India Lord Linlithgow to be displayed in Government House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan).This was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi in a letter to Lord Linlithgow in 1940.

Among his beneficiaries were stalwarts such as Dr Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shubhash Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, and others in India, besides Swami Bhawani Dayal Sanyasi of South Africa.

Kings of Raj Darbhanga, Mithila Society and Maithili Language

The Kings of Raj Darbhanga were Brahmins by caste. Mithila being a centre of knowledge from times immemorial, the Kings promoted knowledge, art and craft in every possible manner. This has had a profound effect on society of Mithila. Even today, a persons social standing is considered by his knowledge than wealth acquired by him.
Nargona Palace
Maharaja of Darbhanga and Darbhanga Raj were looked upon as embodiment of Mithila and Maithili by people in the region. The Maharaja was also hereditary head of Maithil Mahasabha. Maharaja and Raj Darbhanga played a prominent role in revival of Maithili language and literature.

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh being a core nationalist espoused cause of Hindi along with Maithili. This caused great anguish to leaders of Maithili movement. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh gave a call to the people to start using Devanagari script rather than tirhuti script for writing in Maithili. Today, people write Maithili using Devanagari script and efforts are being made to revive Tirhuti Script again. In 1931, the then Maharaja of Darbhanga, Kameshwar Singh Bahadur made an endowment of Rs. One lakh to Patna University to create a Maithili development fund. These had the desired result of spurt in literary activities and publications, and ultimately in 1937, the language came to be recognized in the field of higher education.

The views of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh did not gain popularity with the people except for call for using Devanagri script. He effectively became leader of small elite group having pan-nationalistic agenda rather than a popular King of masses. His alienation from the masses can be gauged from the fact that he lost in general election in Bihar in 1952 despite being one of the biggest philanthropist and progressive minded King in pre-independence India.

A remark by an erstwhile Secretary of Maithil Mahasabha best reflects the dicotomy between interest of maithili and national integration in actions of last Maharaja of Darbhanga Kameshwar Singh -was a great nationalist, one of the founders of Indian National Congress. Now he worked for national integration. So he removed the claim of Maithili itself and fought for Hindi. we have a script of our own, but when he established a printing press here [in Darbhanga], he established a Hindi printing press. A great contribution to national integration but a loss for Mithila

At the same time, Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, also published Mithila Mihir, a maithili periodical. Mithila Mihir was published Newspaper and Publications Pvt. Ltd, by one of the companies owned by Raj Darbhanga. Publication of Mithila Mihir was continued till the decades of 1980s and intermittently thereafter. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh had made a provision in his will for continued publication of Mithila Mihir, that ensured publication of this Maithili periodical since 1908 to 1980s.

Raj Darbhanga and Maithil Brahmin

Darbhanga House at Darbhanga Ghat, Varanasi


Maithil Brahmins are mainly divided into three sub-categories. The highest amongst them are Srotriya Brahmin, then Yogya Brahmin and lastly Jaibar Brahmin. The sub-division is due to feast given by Maharaja of Darbhanga wherein he invited all the Brahmins to a feast to be held in morning. Many Brahmins fearing wrath of King turned up without going through their morning ritual of praying, etc. These Brahmins and their family are called Jaibar Brahmin since they did not complete the prayers and their morning holy/religious rituals before coming to feast. Few Brahmins turned up to feast after making short prayers and partly doing the morning holy/religious rituals. They and their family are known as Yogya (competent) Brahmins. However 13 Brahmins did not turn up till evening. These Brahmins were busy doing their daily holy rituals, prayers, study of Vedas, etc. Only after they had finished with their religious duties that they turned up to feast. The King honoured these 13 Brahmins and declared that since they have steadfastly held to their religious duties, they are the core Brahmins and they were called Srotriya (the source of anything) Brahmin. The descendants of these 13 brahmins are known as Srotriya Brahmin and they are top in hierarchy of Maithil Brahmins.

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh also caused great upheaval in Maithil Brahmin society when he went to England against the traditional prohibition against going abroad i.e. travelling across seven seas. The Maithil Brahmin society was divided into two groups - Swadeshi and Vilayati. Swadeshi (meaning Country's own) were those who called for boycott of Maharaja since he had broken age old tradition and had gone abroad. Vilayati (means foreigners) were group who supported Maharaja's visit to England. For many years, the Maithil Brahmins were divided on this issue, however later everyone accepted the visit of Maharaja to England as progressive breakthrough for the society as a whole.

Bhumihar Brahmins were well respected Brahmins in the court Raj Darbhanga and Darbhanga Maharaj had great amount of respect for Kashi Naresh and had marital relations with Bettiah Raj.

Raj Darbhanga and Religion

Maharajas of Darbhanga were devoted to Sanskrit traditions and were supporters of orthodox Hindu practices in both caste and religion.

Kings of Darbhanga were of Brahimin caste. Shiva and Kali were the main deities of royal family of Darbhanga. Even though they were deeply religious, they were also secular in their outlook. The Palace area in Darbhanga has three tombs of Muslim saints and a small mosque. In fact, the walls of fort at Darbhanga was designed in the manner that to leave an area so that the mosque is not disturbed. One of the tomb of a Muslim saint is located next to Anandbagh Palace.

As part of their attempt to reintroduce re-introduce old Hindu customs as the study of Vedas and Vedic rites which was disappearing, Mahåråja of Darbhanga reintroduced Såmavedic study by inviting a few well-versed Såmavedins from south India to teach there.

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh established Sri Bharat Dharma Mahamadal and he was also General President thereof. Sri Bharat Dharma Mahamadal was a neo-conservative Hindi organization which had univarsalist attitutude ands sought to make Hindu scriptures available to all castes and women. He was also one of the main patron of Agamanusandhana Samiti, which was formed with the objective of publishing tantrik texts in English and other languages.

Raj Darbhanga and Parnami System

Parnami was a unique system of pre-approval of intended marriage prevalent in Shrotriya Brahmins. To explain this system, one has to be first understand the manner in which a marriage amongst Maithil Brahmins is formalized.

Most of the Hindu population in Mithila region follow Mithila School of Hindu personal law (this is not a codified law or Act passed by parliament but a set of laws governing the religious, personal and cultural aspects of society or region and varies from region to region). As per Mithila School of Hindu personal law, a person can only marry a person who is seven generations removed from his/her father's side and five generations removed from his/her mother's side.

A unique system is maintenance of genealogical tree by people known as Panjikaar. The people maintain geneacological records of every Brahmin family in Mithila. Any Maithil Brahmin can approach Panjikaars and get the list of eligible groom/bride for his/her son/daughter. This list authenticates that the prospective groom/bride are not within prohibited degrees of relationship.

During days of Raj, a Shrotriya Brahmin had to apply to Maharaja of Darbhanga for his approval of intended marriage, giving details of the bride and groom, along with a certificate from Panjikaar, stating that the bride and groom are not within the prohibited degrees of relationship. The priest would get the marriage formalized only after the Maharaja's approval was received. The records of every marriage was kept by Raj Darbhanga. This indirectly also served as a register of marriages amongst Shrotriya Brahmins. The Parnami System became defunct after death of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur in 1962.

Raj Darbhanga and Earthquake of 1934

A major earthquake measuring 8.3 on reitcher scale struck north Bihar on 15 January, 1934. The earthquake destroyed many cities, towns and villages. Darbhanga and Muzaffarpurmarker were the most effected towns. Darbhanga town was almost completely destroyed. It is estimated that over 1500 people lost life in Darbhanga and over 2000 in Muzaffarpur due to earthquake. Most of the buildings destroyed were made using mud. However, it also destroyed building using modern construction technologies. Lakshmeshwar Vilas Palace was rendered inhabitable. Another Palace - Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) was completely destroyed and was never rebuild. Rambagh Palace also suffered extensive damages..

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was not in Darbhanga at the time earthquake struck. He immediately returned to Darbhanga on getting the news. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh had a survey conducted for the reason of building collapses which had caused many deaths. As per the survey report, the major factor of death of people was the fact that building were constructed in narrow lanes and the people could not reach any open space, thus getting trapped in falling debris’s of the buildings. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh planned to make Darbhanga a modern city with proper town planning and infrastructure to prevent such large scale casualty in future. By the active support of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, Darbhanga Improvement Act was passed which constitutes a trust for replanning the congested areas in the town of Darbhanga.

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh constituted a taskforce for acquisition of land and subsequent improvement of Darbhanga. However, this act was misunderstood by people as an indirect method of acquiring their property by Raj Darbhanga. This led to massive protests and Maharaja Rameshwar Singh finally abandoned the plans.

After the earthquake, Raj Darbhanga constructed several major buildings in the town. The Lakshmeshwar Vilas Palace and Rambagh Palace were rebuild. A new Palace named Nargona was constructed for Maharaja Kameshwar Singh. Another palace namely Bela Palace was build for Maharaja's younger brother. The Raj Palace Grounds was a major scene of construction activities. Raj Head Office Building (now housing Head office of L.N.Mithila University), European Guest House, Indra Bhawan, Printing Press, Indian Guest House, Chowringhee, etc. were also constructed in order to have an integrated complex. Staff quarters were constructed near the Palace Grounds using the latest construction technologies. These staff quarter were connected by wide roads and had huge open space around them.

Raj Darbhanga initiated several public benefit programs for benefit of public to help them rebuild their houses as well as general infrastructure of city. Tower Chowk was build as market hub of Darbhanga.

Raj Darbhanga and Promotion of Education

The Royal family of Darbhanga played an important role in spread of education in India. Darbhanga Raj was major donor to Benaras Hindu Universitymarker, Calcutta University, Allahabad University, Patna University, Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University, Darbhanga Medical College, Lalit Narayan Mithila University, Aligarh Muslim University and many other educational institutions in India.

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur was the major donor and supporter of Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya for starting Benaras Hindu University. Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur donated a sum of Rs.5,000,000 for starting Benaras Hindu University apart from campaigning for funds along with Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya. Maharaja Rameshwar Singh also donated Darbhanga House (Navlakha Palace) at Patnamarker to Patna University for promoting higher education.

In 1920, Maharaja Rameshwar Singh also donated Rs.500,000.00 to establish Patna Medical College Hospital and was the single highest contributor.

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh donated his ancestral house Anand Bag Palace, on 30th march, 1960, along with a rich library and land surrounding Palace to establish a Sanskrit University - Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was also the Pro-Chancellor of Benaras Hindu University. Similarly, Nargona Palace along with Raj Head Office was donated in 1972 to Government of Bihar in which Lalit Narayan Mithila University functions.

Raj School in Darbhanga by Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur. It is still one of the foremost schools in Darbhanga District. This school was established to provide English medium of education and to introduce modern teaching methods in Mithila. Apart from Raj School, several other schools was opened through out Raj Darbhanga.

Raj Darbhanga has donated 70,935 books to Lalit Narain Mithila University, Darbhanga for its library. The Maharaja also played an important role getting Maithili introduced as a subject in Patna University.

Similarly Raj Darbhanga was a major donor to Calcutta University and the central library building of Calcutta University is called Darbhanga Building.

In 1951, Mithila Snatkottar Shodh Sansthan (Mithila Post-Graduate Research Institute), located at Kabraghat, Darbhanga was established on initiative of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first President of India. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh donated a building along with of land and a garden full of mango and litchi trees, located beside the Bagmati river in Darbhanga to Mithila Snatkottar Shodh Sansthan.

Maharajas of Darbhanga were the main patron, Trustee and financier of Mahakali Pathshala, a school established by Mst. Gangabai in 1839 for promoting education amomgst women. Similarly many colleges like Bareilly College, Bareillymarker also received substantial donations from Maharajas of Darbhanga.

Raj Darbhanga and Music

Darbhanga became one of the prominent centres of Hindustani Classical Music from the late 18th century. Kings of Raj Darbhanga were great patrons of music, art and culture. Darbhanga was famous for its patronage of musicians. Several famous musicians of modern times were associated with Raj Darbhanga. Raj Darbhanga was main patron of Dhrupad. A major school of Dhrupad today is known as Darbhanga Gharana. Today there are only three major gharanas of Dhrupad in India - Dagar Gharana, Mishras of Bettiah Raj (Bettiah Gharana) and the Mallicks of Darbhanga (Darbhanga Gharana).

According to S. M. Ghosh (quoted in 1896) Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh himself was a good Sitar player. Raj Darbhanga gave patronage to many musicians, singers, dancers, folk artists, etc. Prominent amongst them were Ustad Bismillah Khan, Gauhar Jaan, Pt. Ram Chatur Mallik, Pandit Rameshwar Pathak, Pandit Siya Ram Tiwari, etc.

Ustad Bismillah Khan was a court musician of Raj Darbhanga for several years. He had spent his childhood in Darbhanga.

Legendary Gauhar Jaan gave her first performance before Maharaja of Darbhanga in 1887 and was appointed as court musician.

Pandit Rameshwar Pathak, one of the foremost Sitar players in early 20th century, was court musician in Raj Darbhanga.

Raj Darbhanga also supported Murad Ali Khan, brother of legendary Nanhe Khan of Gwalior. Murad Ali Khan was one of the foremost Sarod players of his time. Murad Ali Khan is also credited of being the first person to use metal string and metal fingerboard plate in Sarod, which has today become the defacto standard of Sarod.

Legendary Kundan Lal Sehgal was friend of Raja Bahadur (Raja Bisheshwar Singh, younger brother of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh).Whenever the two met the Bela Palace at Darbhanga witnessed long sessions of conversations and renditions of ghazals and thumris. K. L. Sehgal even attended the marriage of Raja Bahadur. K.L.Sehgal took out his harmonium on impulse and sang "Babul Mora Naihar Chhuto Hee Jaye".

Raj Darbhanga had its own symphony orchestra and Police band. There was a circular structure in front of Manokamna Temple, which was known as Band Stand. The band use to play music there in evening. Today the floor of band stand exists only.

Companies promoted by Raj Darbhanga

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was also one of the great industrialists who controlled 14 industrial units of sugar, jute, cotton, iron & steel, aviation, print media, etc. Some of the major companies were:

Newspaper & Publications Pvt. Ltd.Newspaper & Publications Pvt. Ltd. used to publish two newspapers from Patnamarker, Biharmarker. The Indian Nation was an English daily newspaper while Aryavarta was a Hindi daily newspaper. Apart from these two newspapers, it also published Mithila Mihir, a periodical in Maithili language. For some time, it also published The Dove, a monthly magazine in English. During its heyday, the two newspapers almost had monopoly in Bihar. The company is not publishing any newspapers or magazines now.

WalfordWalford was in business of dealership of Automobiles. It had its showrooms at Kolkata, Guwahati and Imphal.

Darbhanga AviationsRaj Darbhanga had four Douglas DC-3 aircraft (2 No.s of C-47A-DL and 1 No. of C-47A-DK) and ran an airline - Darbhanga Aviations from 1950 to 1962. These airplanes were purchased from U.S. Air force. One of these planes (Registration - VT-DEM) got destroyed in an accident near Calcutta on 01-03-1954. This plane was on Scheduled Domestic Service out of Calcutta, India, when it crashed on takeoff from Calcutta. The No.1 engine of the DC-3 caught fire immediately after takeoff from Calcutta runway 19R. The aircraft failed to gain height, stalled and crashed into trees, past the runway end. 2 of the 8 passengers, and all 3 crew members aboard the DC3 were killed in the crash. The 6 surviving passengers were all critically injured. Although the engine fire was the primary cause of the crash, the Pilot was also cited for a delay in feathering the engine, and the extreme nose up altitude of the plane during takeoff. Both of those factors contributed to the downing of the plane.

Second aeroplane bearing registration No. VT-AYG crashed on 24 MAY 1962 near Rajshahi in Bangladesh. The cause of crash has been attributed to fatigue failure of the no. 1 engine forcing the crew of the DC-3 to continue on a single engine (no. 2). After a while the remaining engine lost power due to overheating resulting in crash of the aircraft.

Third aircraft (registration No. VT-DEM) was taken over by Indian Airforce.

Fourth Aircraft (registration No.VT-AZX) was sold to Kalinga Airlines.

Raj Darbhanga also maintained two airstrips at Darbhanga and Madhubani. The airstrip at Darbhanga is now under control of Indian Air force, while the airstrip at Madhubani is under control of Ministry of Civil Aviations.

Ashok Paper Mills"Ashok Paper Mills was started to manufacture newsprints. It was later taken over by Government of Bihar. It is now lying closed.

Sakri Sugar Factory and Pandaul Sugar FactoryBoth these factories were nationalized and taken over by Government of Bihar.

Rameshwar Jute MillsThe Jute mills located in outskirts of Calcutta were sold to the Birlas in 1960

British India CorporationThe BI corporation was a large business house with several mills and factories in Kanpur and other parts of north India. The controlling stake was held by the Maharaja of Darbhanga

Octavius SteelAnother large calcutta managing agency with interests in engineering, tea, sugar etc... The Maharaja of Darbhanga had a large financial stake in this company too.

Thacker Spink & Co (P) LtdThe Calcutta based publishing house was owned by the Darbhanga Raj and it published many books through it.

Darbhanga Investments Private LtdThis company was the investment arm of Raj Darbhanga and held shares of various companies (including various companies of Tata group).

Darbhanga Dairy Farm (P) LtdDairy farm owned by Darbhanga Raj. It had dairy farms in Darbhanga and Jamshedpur.

Darbhanga Marketing LtdA Calcutta based marketing company. It is now a part of KK Birla Group.

Tirhoot State Rly This company promoted railway line in north Bihar. First railway line in north Bihar between Darbhanga and Bajitpur on the banks of the Ganges opposite Barh was built in 1874 at the prompting of the Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh. This railway line was built under auspices of Tirhoot State Rly. In 1874, Tirhoot State Rly opened MG lines to Samastipur and Darbhanga.

Railway Saloons of Raj Darbhanga

Raj Darbhanga had two railway saloons. One for broad gauge railway tracks and other for meter gauge railway tracks. These Saloons are presently lying in dilapidated condition at Baraunimarker railway yard.

Raj Darbhanga & Public Work

  • Raj Darbhanga. during the period of Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur, spend over £300,000 for relief and charity work during great Bengal famine of 1873-74. The measures taken for meeting challenges arising out of famine was considered to be model for governance at that time.
  • Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur got schools, dispensaries, etc. constructed and maintained it out of his own funds for benefit of public. The dispensary at Darbhanga cost £3400, a huge sum at that time.
  • Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur got iron bridges constructed on all rivers in the Raj.
  • Raj Darbhanga donated 52 bighas of land for the creation and use of Muzaffarpur Judgeship.
  • Raj Darbhanga had several lakes and ponds dug in the region so that famine like situation could be avoided as well as the same would provide irrigation facility to the farmers.
  • First railway line in north Bihar between Darbhanga and Bajitpur on the banks of the Ganges opposite Barh was built in 1874 at the prompting of the Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh.
  • Over 1,500 km of road were constructed till early part of 19th century by Raj Darbhanga. Of this over 300 km was metalled road. This resulted in expansion of trade as well as greater market for agricultural produce in the region.
  • Many dharamshala (a charitable lodging house where the charges are minimal or it is even free) were constructed e.g. Ram Mandir and Rani Kotha in Varanasi.
  • Homes for poor destitute people were constructed.
  • A large reservoir known as Kharagpur Lake was built across Man river in Munger District.
  • Raj Darbhanga was one of the pioneers in cross breeding cattle so that the milk production could be increased. A cross breed superior milking cow breed called Hansi was introduced by Raj Darbhanga by cross breeding good country cows with Jersey breed.


Raj Darbhanga and Sports

Raj Darbhanga had been actively promoting various sports activities. Polo Ground in Laheriasarai was a major centre in pre-independence time for Polo in Bihar. the winner of a major Polo tournament in Calcutta are awarded Darbhanga Cup.

Raja Bishweshwar Singh (Raja Bahadur) was one of the founder members of All India Football Federation, the prime governing body for football in India. Raja Bahadur along with Rai Bahadur JP Sinha were the Honorary Secretary of All India Football Federation upon its inception in 1935.

The first flight over Mt. Everest in took place in 1933. This expedition was organised by military officers, supported by public companies and hosted by the Maharajah of Darbhanga Kameshwar Singh Bahadur along with Raja of Banaili.

Raj Darbhanga's impact on Indian Constitution

After Independence, Constituent assembly was formed to frame Constitution of India. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was one of the members of Constituent Assembly. One of major issues facing Constituent Assembly was "Right of Property". This is illustrated well in an article - (Un)Constituting Property: The Deconstruction of the ‘Right to Property’ in India by Jaivir Singh, of Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. To quote a paassage from the said article:

"The broad political impulse after independence was for the ruling Congress Party to eliminate, preferably without compensation, Zamindars – rural intermediaries, who under colonial rule had gained rights over vast tracts of land in many parts of the country, and put into effect a ‘socialist’ Industrial Policy that gave the State a major role in controlling both private (both, through the planning process and a mandate to take over concerns in the public interest) and public industry. Such moves were challenged using the property clause of the Constitution in the courts in a series of cases. For instance, prominent among such cases were - the decision of the Bihar High Court to strike down as unconstitutional the Bihar Management of Estates and Tenures Act, 1949, which was held to violate Articles 19(1)(f) and 314. This judicial threat motivated the First Amendment to the Indian Constitution, which came into being with Parliament passing the First Amendment Act (1951). By this amendment, Articles 31 A, 31 B and the Ninth Schedule were added to the Constitution. Article 31 A permitted the legislation of laws to acquire estates – a term used cover the properties of Zamindars and other categories of revenue farmers, the taking over of property by the State for a limited period either in the ‘public interest’ or to ‘secure the proper management of the property’, amalgamate properties, and extinguish or modify the rights of managers, managing agents, directors, stockholders etc. and those who have licenses or agreements to search or own minerals and oil."


The Full Bench of Patna High Courts also struck down the reform laws for being ultra vires and hence unconstitutional due to their being violative of Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 19 (reasonableness) of Indian Constitution. The High Courts did not go into question of Article 31 (Right of Property, now removed from Indian Constitution). However this decision combined with decisions of the other High Courts was seen as reactionqary and anti-reforms. While the abovementioned decision of Full Bench of Patna High Court was in appeal, Constitutional (First Amendment) Act, 1951 was introduced which excluded scrutiny by Courts acquisition of Property by State. the courts were excluded from entertaining writs under article 14, 19 and 31 and ousted Courts jurisdiction to judicial review of land reform measures.

Subsequently, when the appeal in Sir Kameshwar Singh (Darbhanga) v State of Bihar was heard in Supreme Court of India, it was held that even though due to the Amendment the jurisdiction of Court's review was only limited to question of quantum of compensation and did not effect Court's jurisdiction to review the acquisition on question of public purpose.

The above mentioned case and few other cases, resulted in the right to property being struck down from being part of Fundamental Rights available to Indians. Thus, Raj Darbhanga indirectly contributed to abolition of Right of Property in India.

Raj Darbhanga Today

Raj Darbhanga has been heirless since death of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh - the last Maharaja of Darbhanga. The remaining descendants, are involved in a bitter contest over inheritance, which is unsettled till date. The descendants, further do not enjoy a favourable repute amongst elite of Darbhanga and Mithila region.

References

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